Ten fallacies of elections

Good governance requires of each of us that we know how to listen responsibly and how to speak responsibly. We who vote have to tell the young that both the listening and speaking take us to the ballot table on polling day armed with a choice of one party’s candidate over another. We therefore need to know how to discern data and truth within campaign picong, mamaguy, innuendo, false arguments and, plain old deceit. For our students and others interested here are ten techniques used by politicians that may help us with both our listening and our relating what we know and feel to others. The origin of some of these goes back to essays on logic from ancient Greece, however the encyclopedia Wikipedia has a compilation that is quoted here.

Firstly there is proof by example. It is an argument that presents a false generalisation about a family, a community, a political party or a country. It is based on a premise that what one member or several members say or do is adequate proof of what all will say or do. Secondly begging the question is a logical fallacy in which the proposition to be proved is assumed implicitly or explicitly in the premise. One writer recently wrote in support of the PNM: “Never before in our nation’s history have young people had so many options and this says that our elected leaders have a vision and a plan for our future.”

Thirdly a false compromise is a logical fallacy which suggests that any given compromise between two positions must be correct. Sometimes no middle ground is possible and only one of the two positions is acceptable. The argument for development of the people of this country includes development of the competence and capacity of local contractors. To publicly denigrate local contractors and give pride of place to foreign contractors and consultants cannot be reconciled with the principles, projects and conversations of the Vision 2020.

Fourthly there is the logical fallacy of a false dilemma which involves a situation in which only two alternatives are considered, when in fact there are other options. “If you are not with us, you are against us.” There are other options. The fallacy can arise by accidental omission, a form of wishful thinking or ignorance, rather than by deliberate deception. Dr Rowley has consistently argued for the principles of the PNM over the practices of the current party leadership. Being staunchly PNM still permits a member to oppose what specific PNM members practice, while supporting the party’s principles.

Fifthly is the circular cause and consequence. This presents arguments claiming the consequence of the phenomenon to be its root cause. The Prime Minister indicated that his dissolution of Parliament and call for fresh elections was in response to the calls by the Opposition for such elections.

Sixthly there is the fallacy of the beard, an informal fallacy leading to erroneously rejecting a vague claim because it is not as precise as one would like it to be. Vagueness alone does not necessarily imply invalidity. Several years ago the media began discussion of purported facts unfavourable to Calder Hart of Udecott. Any of the many investigative arms of the State could have pursued these vague claims to finality wit the aim of ensuring due diligence.

Seventh there is the appeal to authority which is defective when it is argued that a statement is correct because the statement is made by a person or source that is commonly regarded as authoritative. This is a fallacy because the truth or falsity of the claim is not necessarily related to the personal qualities of the claimant. There is the example of recent reference to matters raised by Justice Garvin Scott in the 23-year-old Scott Drug Report.

Eighth there is an appeal to consequences which suggests that a premise is either true or false based on whether the premise leads to desirable or undesirable consequences. This is based on an appeal to emotion and is a form of logical fallacy, since the desirability of a consequence does not address the truth value of the premise, and contains subjective points of view. A comment published on April 17 says: “To vote for change now would be to set us back decades after so much of the ground work has already been laid.”

Ninth there is an appeal to motives which is a pattern of argument which consists in challenging a thesis by calling into question the motives of its proposer. The State has argued the necessity to fund the bailout of CL Financial with a sum to date in excess of $5billion to save the pension funds and deposits of many persons. Certain voices opposed to this payout have suggested that the Central Bank, the political directorate and statutory auditors had years of special knowledge of the weaknesses at CLICO yet let citizens down badly, and continue the let down by not paying the very depositors. The counter argument considers that the use of taxpayers’ dollars to have been improper and unjustifiable because the real reason for the bailout is protection of big business and political interests.

Finally special pleading is a position in a dispute where one party introduces favourable details or excludes unfavourable details by alleging a need to apply additional considerations without proper criticism of these considerations themselves.

The absence of reconciliations of the purpose and property of Vision 2020 with its performance on projects and programmes, the absence of reconciliations and audited accounts of the Corporation Sole, did not stop formal disclosure to Parliament of $35 Billion held in trust for the people of the country. These ten fallacies are a mere tip of the logic iceberg.


"Ten fallacies of elections"

More in this section